Young boy’s death studied

BOARDMAN – The Ohio State Department of Health is investigating whether a Boardman boy’s death may have been caused by influenza.

According to a report from the Mahoning County Coroner’s Office, Hunter S. Ewert, 4, died about 7:30 a.m. Saturday at Akron Children’s Hospital Beeghly Campus. He was taken there by his mother and father, Shannon and Brian Ewert, after they found him unresponsive about one hour earlier, the coroner’s office reports.

A nursing student, Shannon Ewert performed CPR on her son until paramedics arrived at the family’s Beechwood Drive home, the report states.

Mahoning County forensic pathologist Dr. Joseph Orr performed an autopsy on the boy Monday and continues to investigate the boy’s death.

While the cause of Hunter Ewert’s death has not been linked to the influenza virus, there have been nearly 2,000 flu-related hospitalizations in Ohio since October, compared to 86 in last year’s unusually mild flu season, and 175 the previous season.

One child in Ohio has died from flu complications; there were no child deaths last season and only one the previous year. The state Health Department says there are sufficient supplies of vaccine available around the state.

Local health care providers are encouraging Mahoning Valley residents to protect themselves as this year has seen an increase in hospitalizations as well as respiratory difficulties due to the influenza virus.

In early December, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was noticing an uptick in flu activity about a month before authorities typically see it. The primary strain this season is H3N2, an influenza A virus that has been associated with more severe flu seasons.

The CDC, which tracks pediatric deaths from the flu, said 18 children died nationwide between Sept. 30 and Dec. 29.

“While it’s not too late to get vaccinated, it is late as far as our vaccination season goes, and people may have to look around to find vaccine,” said Thomas Skinner, a CDC spokesman. About 112 million Americans had been vaccinated by the end of November.

The Associated Press contributed to this report by the Warren Tribune Chronicle.